As I See It

On a beautiful, low-humidity day last month, I was relaxing in my hammock. It was a gorgeous day, and the bright blue sky was filled with white puffy clouds. I thought about my children who are now grown and on their own. I remembered our best times together on vacation. I realized there was a commonality that existed with our favorite vacations – they were the simplest, least expensive and filled with nature.

Over the years, I have taken my children to commercial amusement parks and very organized rapid-paced trips to New York and other major metropolitan areas. These were nice trips but not the vacations my children love to talk about. What they remember most are our longer, less-expensive vacations to rural counties in Pennsylvania, like Sullivan County. They remember places like Eagles Mere, Frackville or Rickettes Glen State Park. They remember renting cabins or houses that had no TV or Internet, but did have front-porch swings. They remember the Eagles Mere Lake with its mountain trails, days of swimming and bike riding with our final stop at the ice cream shop. Their bikes had no chains on them and children were safe to travel in the area without parents being worried. It was like being in rural America 100 years ago.

My son remembers convincing me to go with him to Frackville to go “bridge jumping.” He takes great joy in the fact that it took me quite a while before I could gather up enough courage to let go of the bridge railing and plunge into the deep water 30 feet below. To this day, I remember holding onto the railing, concentrating to release my grasp. Once the first jump was done, I did several others but never with the same enthusiasm as my son, Stephen. We left Frackville that day laughing and having a bond of doing something most people simply don’t do. I am not recommending that you encourage your children to jump off of bridges, but I am encouraging you to have vacations where you return to a simpler time; a time of simple joys shared with family and friends, no schedules, slow in pace, full of skies and nightime star-gazing.

What I remember most were those moments of laughter during a simple board game or deep discussions with my son as we hiked past roaring waterfalls. I remember sounds from another era; the slamming sound of an old, wooded, spring-loaded screen door or the sound of people stopping at a neighbor’s house or camp and having animated conversation. I remember what I didn’t hear as well. I didn’t hear blaring TV, constant traffic, loud and tense dialogue – and I didn’t hear the constant beeping or ringtones of cell phones.

The absence of the modern feels uncomfortable for the first day or two but soon you realize that swinging on a porch swing reading a paper book while being serenaded by birds and laughing children is a great way to spend the afternoon. Doing nothing much is often something of great importance. It allows you to smell the roses. You take time – time to reflect on where you are going and where you have been. You actually talk with others about life and discover values and commonalities. You return to the simple to help you deal with the complex.

I suggest that, every once in a while, take a family vacation somewhere that will immerse you in nature, slowness, solitude and simplicity. If you do this, you will give your children the vacations they most remember.

Have a great summer.

Graham Hetrick

You must be logged in to post a comment Login